Future looks bright for Vanuatu cocoa industry

Vanuatu exports more than 1,500 tons of cocoa annually making the commodity the country’s main export and source of income for farmers.

The exporters are Vanuatu Cocoa and Copra Exporters Limited (VCCE) and Commodity Corporation Pty Ltd (C-CORP) and Alternative Communities Trade in Vanuatu (ACTIV) Association.

ACTIV produces chocolate from cocoa beans bought from local farmers. Vanuatu cocoa beans are exported to Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

Twenty-five percent of rural households in Vanuatu are involved in cocoa production.

Most cocoa is produced by smallholder farmers based in the northern islands.

The history of cocoa dates back to colonial times when the elderly people of Vanuatu were heavily involved in coconut and cocoa plantations.

The Vanuatu Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has developed a cocoa programme to identify appropriate varieties of cocoa that are resistant and can be grown better with the assistance from the Vanuatu Agriculture Research and Technical Centre (VARTC) on Santo.

In 2017, the Department of Agriculture identified two main varieties of cocoa that are resistant to pests and diseases and can provide a high and sustainable yield of cocoa pods per tree for farmers. These are hybrids of cocoa.

Cocoa Specialist based on Santo, Gaston Rory said this year, VARTC has a plot of fine flavor cocoa plants, ready to be distributed to farmers. 

“VARTC has done a lot of research work to identify varieties that have high improved quality of beans for good quality locally produced chocolate,” Rory said.

Mr Rory mentioned that a lot of work has been done to improve cocoa production in Vanuatu but recently, there is a decline of tons being exported due to most cocoa trees being old in particular large cocoa plantation, poor maintenance of cocoa plantations and that local farmers not replanting new cocoa plants.

“The most productive islands of cocoa production are Malekula, with a huge production, followed by West Coast of Santo, Malo, Epi and Ambae.”

The Cocoa Specialist said his main task is to work in collaboration with VARTC and extension arm of DARD through the Provincial Agriculture Officers and Assistant Agriculture Officers to identify interested farmers so cocoa seedlings can be distributed to their areas of production.

“There are over 600 cocoa farmers throughout the country, excluding other farmers who are working with local cocoa only,” he said.

The Government implemented a cocoa programme in 2016 which saw the distribution of poly bags and free seeds to cocoa farmers to ensure increase of cocoa production in Vanuatu.

This year 2019, Director Antoine Ravo confirm that the DARD will continue assist farmers in increasing their production with new hybrid varieties, support research activities, and developed a new cocoa strategy as a road map for the cocoa industry in Vanuatu.



Photo supplied. Caption: Cocoa plantation in Malekula




Tensly Sumbe